Mental Illness

God warned Nebuchadnezzar in a dream and Daniel encouraged him to repent (see verses 5-27), but 12 months later he was as proud as ever (see verses 28-30). Finally, he raised his eyes toward heaven, and his sanity was restored (see verse 34). Was he mentally ill? Today’s mental health workers would conclude that he was, because they believe people are mentally healthy if they are in touch with reality and relatively free from anxiety. Based on secular standards and definitions, anyone experiencing a spiritual battle for his or her mind would fail on both counts.

What would secular mental health workers think if their clients told them that they were hearing voices or seeing things that frightened them, but the counselors couldn’t see or hear anything? They would conclude that their clients were out of touch with reality. Actually, the mental health workers may be the ones out of touch with reality. The ultimate reality is God, and what their clients are seeing and hearing is very real, though not seen and heard through the natural senses.

In the natural realm we can’t physically hear anything unless there is a sound source that sends an audible signal through the medium of air to our eardrums. The eardrums pass the signals to our brains. In the same way, we can’t physically see anything unless there is a light source sending a light ray that reflects off a material object to our optic nerve, which then sends a signal to our brains. There is no physical source of light and sound in the spiritual realm, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood” (Ephesians 6:12). The battle is in the mind. Therefore, a spiritual attack that is “seen” or “heard” by one person will probably not be seen or heard by another person in the same setting.

The battle for the mind is tearing families apart. A child cries out at night, “Mommy, there is something in my room!” Most parents will look under the bed and in the closet and say, “Honey, there is nothing here. Go back to sleep.” If you saw something in your room, would you go back to sleep? Or a mother comes home from the hospital with her third child. The kids are fighting, her electrolytes are depleted, and she suddenly has a thought: Kill you kids! Who is she going to share that thought with? Her husband? “Honey, I’ve had thoughts about killing the kids!” When people have such thoughts they generally don’t kill their kids, but in rare occasions they actually do. Those who don’t are disgusted with themselves for even thinking such things.

Such battles for the mind are happening in every church. So why don’t we know more about this spiritual battle? First, because we can’t read each other’s minds, so we have no idea what another person’s struggle is unless they have the courage to tell us. Second, because few people are willing to disclose what is going on inside their minds. If one person had the courage to share, and it is dismissed by others, nobody else will ever share again. Third, because some fear they are losing their minds, and they don’t want others thinking that they are. Fourth, because some are embarrassed with the thoughts they are having, which may be vulgar, sensual and just plain evil. All this chaos, and it is just a lie.

Dr. Neil

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